Miami Hurricanes basketball picked fourth in ACC preseason poll 

Bruce Brown posing for a photo in Nov. 2016. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

Three quick hits from the ACC’s basketball media days in Charlotte:

Miami was picked to finish fourth in the preseason media poll, tying its highest preseason predicted finish ever (2008-09). UM earned one first-place vote from the 69 ballots cast.

Sophomore guard Bruce Brown was a preseason  All-ACC second-team pick. Brown earned one vote for preseason player of the year. That honor went to Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson.

Freshman guard Lonnie Walker finished second in the preseason rookie of the year voting. Duke forward Marvin Bagley was the runaway winner.

The voting:

ACC Operation Basketball 2017-18 Preseason Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

Team & Points

1. Duke (57) – 1020

2. North Carolina (7) – 921

3. Notre Dame (4) – 852

4. Miami (1) – 809

5. Louisville – 733

6. Virginia – 690

7. Virginia Tech – 549

8. Florida State – 519

9. Georgia Tech – 468

10. Syracuse – 420

11. Wake Forest – 378

12. NC State – 310

13. Clemson – 289

14. Boston College – 181

15. Pittsburgh – 141

 

2017-18 Preseason All-ACC Team

(votes in parenthesis)

First Team

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (64)

Grayson Allen, Duke (60)

Joel Berry II, North Carolina (58)

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (26)

Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech (25)

 

Second Team

Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (22)

Quentin Snider, Louisville (12)

Deng Adel, Louisville (12)

Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech (11)

Jerome Robinson, Boston College (11)
ACC Preseason Player of the Year

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (49)

Grayson Allen, Duke (9)

Joel Berry II, North Carolina (9)

Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (1)

Jerome Robinson, Boston College (1)
ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year

Marvin Bagley III, Duke (58)

Lonnie Walker IV, Miami (3)

Lavar Batts Jr., NC State (2)

M.J. Walker, Florida State (2)

Jalek Felton, North Carolina (1)

Aamir Simms, Clemson (1)

Oshae Brissett, Syracuse (1)

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (1)

2017 NBA Draft: Miami Hurricanes’ Kamari Murphy signs with Brooklyn Nets

Kamari Murphy and the Hurricanes have had a tough time with the Hokies this season. (Getty Images)
Kamari Murphy played tough defense during his time at Miami. (Getty Images)

Both of Miami’s departing seniors will have a shot to make an NBA roster.

The morning after Davon Reed was drafted 32nd overall by the Phoenix Suns, his former Hurricanes teammate Kamari Murphy signed a summer-league deal with his hometown Brooklyn Nets.

Murphy, who played at the borough’s storied Lincoln High School, will play for the Nets in July 7-11 in Las Vegas.

A 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward known for his defense, Murphy started all 33 games as a senior, averaging 7.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. He led or tied for the team-high in rebounds 21 times and blocked shots 10 times. He showed flashes of an improving offensive game, recording four double-doubles.

“He will impress a lot of NBA scouts this summer,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga, who previously compared Murphy to defense-first, high-effort forwards Kenneth Fareid and former UM standout DeQuan Jones.

“Brooklyn I want to thank you for the opportunity this summer,” Murphy wrote Friday in an Instagram post. “Everybody [sic] path isn’t the same or the easiest but I will make the most of this opportunity.”

Murphy played his final two college years at Miami after transferring from Oklahoma State. He remarked previously he wished he had signed with the Hurricanes as a recruit, but the NCAA trouble the program was in at the time caused him to reconsider.

The Nets open summer league play at 8 p.m. July 7 against the Atlanta Hawks (NBA TV).  Reed’s team, the Suns, are also playing in Vegas. They open at 9:30 p.m. Friday against the Sacramento Kings (ESPN2).

 

2017 NBA Draft: Davon Reed’s stock, pro comparisons and interested teams

Davon Reed (Getty Images)

[What does Jim Larranaga want on the transfer market?]

In the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, analysts try to find pro comparisons for college players. Davon Reed is a hard-working, 6-foot-6 guard with mobility and long arms that help him defend a variety of players.

Jim Larranaga says to make an NBA roster, Reed needs to “just be Davon Reed,” but even he has no problem playing the comp game.

“I look at a couple guys who have been in the league,” Larranaga said last Wednesday, sitting down with The Post during the ACC spring meetings at Amelia Island. “A guy like Kent Bazemore is in the league because he really could defend, he was an energetic guy, great teammate, hustle guy. Davon has a lot of those same qualities, but I think he has more offensive skills than Kent had coming out of college.

“Another guy: James Jones. Davon can’t shoot quite as well as James Jones, but James Jones is just a winner. He comes out of the Miami basketball program with a unique personality. He’s just positive all the time. I think LeBron [James] said he’s the best teammate you can ever ask for. That’s Davon.”

Larranaga said the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors “have been the most vocal in telling me ‘Hey, we’ve got our eye on him.'”

More from the ACC spring meetings
A sit-down with Mark Richt
Part I: Spring review
Part II: Is the U back?
Part III: QB, N’Kosi Perry talk
Part IV: Defense; a final thought

Where might Reed, an excellent defender who averaged 14.9 points and 4.8 rebounds a game as a senior, be drafted?

The Ringer’s mock draft slotted him at No. 53 to Boston Celtics, calling him a “hard-working player whose extremely long wingspan” — 7-foot, on a frame that measured 6-5.5 at the NBA combine — “gives him the potential to defend up to four positions.” The Ringer projected that Reed, should he reach his maximum pro potential, could be a player reminiscent of veterans Danny Green, Iman Shumpert or Quincy Pondexter.

DraftExpress, which ranks him No. 82 overall, compared Reed’s wingspan-height combo to that of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Moe Harkless, “which gives him nice positional versatility to go along with his career [40 percent 3-point shooting] and positive assist-to-turnover ratio.” DraftExpress said his “well-developed frame and good athletic tools provides Reed with considerable intrigue as a prospect, especially considering the potential he’s shown as a jump-shooter.”

***

Larranaga’s thoughts on his other outgoing senior, forward Kamari Murphy, who is projected to go undrafted:

“He has to rely on his agent researching every team and what they need, and figure out if there’s a way for Kamari to be like a Kenneth Fareid: great defender, great rebounder, can block some shots, not a guy who’s going to do a lot of scoring for you, but’s going to give you a great effort every day in practice,” Larranga said. “Kind of like what [former Hurricane] DeQuan Jones did his first year out of college going to the Orlando Magic.”

Hurricanes basketball notes: Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes honored; Chris Caputo interviews

Chris Caputo (second from left) has been by Jim Larranaga's side for 14 seasons. (Getty Images)
Chris Caputo (second from left) has been by Jim Larranaga’s side for 15 seasons. (Getty Images)

A couple notes from the Canes hoops side of things …

Five-star signee Lonnie Walker — arguably the most heralded basketball recruit Miami has ever had, at least in this millennium — is making an impression among a star-studded group at the McDonald’s All-American Game practices. Reports from camp say Walker “shot the lights out” and showed his usual length and athleticism.

A highlight tape:

What they said:

Walker also spoke to USA Today about his McDonald’s All-American experience, which culminates with the game (7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN).

Last Saturday, Walker scored 22 points to lead Reading (Pa.) High to its first state title, a crowning achievement “for a program steeped in history and rooted deep into the heart of a troubled community,” PennLive.com wrote. Walker will always be a hero in Reading for that, and this: Rather than join an elite private school or prep program, Walker stayed at his public school and lifted the group that surrounded him growing up.

* Walker wasn’t the only Miami signee honored this week. Chris Lykes, the 5-foot-7 point guard from Gonzaga (D.C.), was named a USA Today third-team All-American.

[Related: Projecting the 2017-18 Hurricanes lineup]

* A tweet Tuesday from longtime Boston-area reporter Mark Blaudschun said UM associate head coach Chris Caputo, who has worked under Jim Larranaga his entire professional career, interviewed for the UMass job. To clarify, a source told The Post, that interview took place last week, before Pat Kelsey accepted and then backed out of the job. UMass did reach out to Caputo again, but hadn’t made a decision as of Tuesday afternoon.

Caputo, 36, is a 2002 graduate of Westfield (Mass.) State, located about 30 miles south of Amherst. He joined Larranaga’s staff at George Mason after college.

 

Reports: James Johnson leaving Miami basketball for N.C. State

Virginia Tech fired James Johnson after two seasons, ending with a loss to Miami. (Getty Images)
James Johnson during his days as Virginia Tech’s coach. (Getty Images)

[Projecting the 2017-18 Canes hoops lineup]

James Johnson is reportedly back in the ACC as an assistant coach.

Johnson, the former Virginia Tech head coach who was Miami’s director of basketball operations the last two years, will leave for North Carolina State, according to the Raleigh News & Observer and other reports.

UM did immediately not confirm the departure of Johnson, who wants to be a full-time coach, but once source characterized it as “possible.”

New Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts, who played with Johnson at Ferrum, reportedly hired Johnson as an assistant.

Johnson, 45, was on Jim Larranaga’s George Mason staff from 2004-06 and left the Patriots after their Final Four run 2006. He was an assistant for five years at Virginia Tech and before being promoted to head coach.

His run in Blacksburg was short-lived. Johnson went 22-41 in two seasons — 6-32 against league opponents — before he was fired. His last game as a head coach was March 12, 2014 in the first round of the ACC tournament. Miami beat the Hokies 57-53.

Miami’s staff of assistants — Chris Caputo, Jamal Brunt and Adam Fisher — remains intact. However, don’t be surprised if Keatts’ old school, UNC-Wilmington, calls Caputo about its vacant position. Caputo was a finalist in 2014, when Keatts was hired.

Basketball: Projecting the potential 2017-18 Miami Hurricanes lineup

Bruce Brown (center) will be a major part of the Hurricanes this fall. (Getty Images)
Bruce Brown (center) will try to lead the Hurricanes back to the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore. (Getty Images)

The Hurricanes were disappointed to lose the way they did, but they believe that getting to the NCAA Tournament in the first place was an achievement for a young team.

Since everyone not named Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy is expected to return, Miami will have higher expectations entering next year. Last weekend in Tulsa, there was loose talk on press row about the Canes being a top-15 team to start next season.

We’ll see.

Jim Larranaga hopes he sees a lot of player development this offseason, especially from a strength and conditioning perspective. Young talents like Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell must become forces with which to be reckoned. They, along with veterans Ja’Quan NewtonAnthony Lawrence and Ebuka Izundu, must learn how to lead. A ballyhooed freshman class led by All-American Lonnie Walker must acclimate quickly, because UM isn’t deep enough to keep minutes away from anyone with talent.

In looking at who’s coming back and what roles they could fill, it’s important to note the Hurricanes have two open scholarships (after dismissing guard Rashad Muhammad and forward Michael Gilmore for program rules violations during the season). It will be interesting to see how they use them; hundreds of players each year transfer, and seven of ESPN’s top 20 high school players for 2017 have yet to sign. It’s unclear if any of them are involved with Miami.

Thoughts on each position entering the offseason:

Point guard: Larranaga will lose a lot less sleep if Newton improves his ball distribution, cuts down on turnovers and grows into a prominent leadership role. The only senior on the roster, Newton (6-2, 195) will have a full year as full-time point to review his weaknesses and attack his offseason development. UM would love if he became an equal threat as a passer as a scorer. Freshman Chris Lykes (5-7, 160) will be limited defensively at his size, but is an excellent passer, has no fear of contact and should be an electric weapon off the bench. The thought of him running in transition with high-caliber athletes Brown and Walker is enticing.

Shooting guard: As a sophomore, Brown (6-5, 200) takes over as UM’s top offensive weapon and do-it-all guard. He can handle the ball, score from the outside and produce acrobatic finishes inside, and defensively, will see a lot of the opponent’s top scorer. This is his takeover season. The continued progress of D.J. Vasiljevic (6-2, 195) will be interesting; he proved to be an outstanding shooter, and added strength will make him more of a threat when he puts the ball on the floor (and on defense).

Small forward: Larranaga is likely to start junior Lawrence, but freshman Walker (6-4, 200) is too good to keep on the bench. Lawrence (6-7, 210) played more power forward than ever this year and admitted he struggled to score against those opponents. He’s more of a wing than a post, and looks more comfortable guarding the perimeter. Walker is a Brown-caliber athlete — which is to say, outstanding — and in tandem, those two could give opponent fits. Walker can shoot and make plays but excels in slashing and finishing high above the rim, and his long wingspan could make him a strong perimeter defender.

Power forward: Huell showed flashes of what’s to come, and must take the next step. He has an NBA frame (6-11, 220) but his moves in the post and defense are works in progress. He was often in foul trouble, as was center Izundu. If he can become a force in the paint, UM should be one of the top teams in the ACC. Brown-Walker-Huell is as athletic a trio as UM has ever had. Sam Waardenburg (6-9, 200) enrolled midyear and redshirted, which will help the skilled stretch 4 from New Zealand adjust to the ACC. Freshman Deng Gak (6-10, 200) is also skilled but skinny; like Izundu last year, he needs to add weight and strength in order to contribute meaningful minutes. He has potential at the 4 and 5 spots.

Center: Izundu (6-10, 230) needs to keep growing and learning how to play defense without fouling. He has a few crafty moves and can score in the paint, though he won’t be the focal point of the offense. The junior will be a key rebound-grabber with Murphy graduating, and along with Newton and Lawrence, is one of three returning upperclassmen. Huell will see action here, too, and could start. Sophomore Rodney Miller (7-0, 258) is an interesting project; he is UM’s most skilled big man, but needs to reshape his body. How quickly he can do that? Speculating: If it takes him another year, and Miami finds a big man who wants to grad-transfer to play with a potentially very good team, would Miller take a redshirt? That way, he would be a redshirt sophomore in 2018-19, potentially backing up a senior in Izundu.

Miami Hurricanes veteran Kamari Murphy back in Oklahoma and tough as ever

Kamari Murphy (Getty Images)
Kamari Murphy (Getty Images)

TULSA, Oklahoma — No Hurricane has appeared in more NCAA Tournaments than fifth-year senior forward Kamari Murphy, who made the dance twice at Oklahoma State before transferring to Miami. He will start his fourth appearance 70 miles east of where he spent the first two years of his college career.

“I’m a city kid,” he said. “I didn’t really miss Oklahoma like that.”

Murphy, a Brooklyn native, originally wanted to sign with Miami out of Bradenton-IMG Academy in 2012, but the NCAA cloud hovering over the program convinced him to go west.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Game-by-game look at the NCAA Tournament]

He started 15 games as a Cowboys freshman in 2012-12, and shouldered more of a load as a sophomore because of injuries to others. He started 21 games and led the team in rebounds (6.3) and blocks (1.2), chipping in 6.1 points.

He has fit the same defense-and-dunks profile at Miami, though his defensive game greatly improved — coach Jim Larranaga was disappointed Murphy wasn’t an ACC All-Defensive team selection — and is as confident as ever in his jump-shooting. He scored in double figures in six of his previous 10 games, a reason why he’s on pace for career bests in points (7.3), as well as rebounds (7.5). He is also shooting free throws at the best clip of his career (61.2).

He’s one of two seniors, along with Davon Reed, leading Miami into its first-round matchup with Michigan State on Friday (9:20 p.m.).

“I’m just showing them how it’s going to be on and off the court,” he said. “Teams are going to go on runs in the tournament games. Everybody’s going to bring their best game. You’ve got to be poised in those situations.”

Along with forward Anthony Lawrence Jr., he’ll be a big part of Miami’s defense against Michigan State’s Nick Ward, who is a load in the post at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds. The smaller, quicker Murphy (6-8, 220) said he planned to “give him different things to think about” with how he defended him. If he can keep Ward (13.7 points, 6.5 rebounds) from getting comfortable on the block, he’ll be in good shape.

“He’s a big kid,” Murphy said. “But I’ve never been bullied. I don’t plan on being bullied.”

Future Miami Heat star brought Jim Larranaga and Tom Izzo together

The Michigan State-Miami matchup is more than coaches Tom Izzo (left) and Jim Larranaga. (Getty Images)
Tom Izzo (left) and Jim Larranaga. (Getty Images)

TULSA, Oklahoma — Jim Larranaga was a first-time head coach at Bowling Green and was about to land his first star recruit.

There was one major obstacle standing in the way of that happening. Steve Smith had a particular dream, and Larranaga couldn’t help him achieve it.

Tom Izzo could, and did.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Game-by-game look at the NCAA Tournament]

That’s how Larranaga described it Thursday, some 31 years later. He visited Smith’s home, near Detroit, in September of his senior year. Smith, Larranaga said, told him he was glad to get a scholarship offer from the Falcons and planned to visit campus, unless …

“I said, ‘What do you mean, Steve? Unless what?'” Larranaga said.

“He said, Unless Michigan State offers me a scholarship because they’re my favorite. Magic Johnson is my hero and if they offer me that’s where I’m going.”

The postscript, according to Larranaga, involved Smith scoring 47 points the next weekend in front of Izzo, then an assistant for Michigan State’s Jud Heathcote. Izzo “went to Steve’s home by himself, without coach Heathcote, and offered him the scholarship,” Larranaga said. “And I believe, if I heard the story correctly, Steve Smith committed to him on the spot. But that was our first encounter.”

Smith was Michigan State’s all-time leading scorer. The Heat made him the No. 5 overall pick in 1991, and he led Miami to its first playoff win — over the Hawks in 1994 — before joining Atlanta in the one-sided Kevin Willis deal. He was known as one of the best shooters in the NBA during his career, which ended with a short stint with Miami in 2003.

Izzo became MSU’s coach in 1995. His resume, heading into Friday’s game against Miami (9:20 p.m., TNT), includes seven Final Fours and one national title (2000). He hired Larranaga’s former assistant, Stan Heath, in 1996. Larranaga moved onto George Mason in 1997, and crossed paths with Izzo in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

The 11th-seeded Patriots’ upset of sixth-seeded Michigan State kick-started their stunning run to the Final Four.

“Tom and I have never discussed it, but the media tends to bring it up a lot,” Larranaga said, laughing. “That’s in the past. Has nothing to do with tomorrow night’s game. It’s Michigan State against the University of Miami, and both of us, I think, recognize we have young clubs. We have a lot
of young guys making major contributions, and I’m sure we’re both hopeful that those young guys will play up to their capability.”

After leaving Miami Hurricanes, Manu Lecomte finds happiness at Baylor

Manu Lecomte poses for a photo in the hallway of the BOK Center in Tulsa. (Matt Porter)
Manu Lecomte poses for a photo in the hallway of the BOK Center in Tulsa. (Matt Porter)

TULSA, Oklahoma — Several larger teammates, some wearing highlighter-colored practice jerseys, are engaging in dunk contest for the delight of the oohing-and-aahing crowd of 500. It’s the day before the NCAA Tournament opens in Tulsa.

Manu Lecomte, 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds and the smallest on the team by five inches, looks over and smiles. He’s at the other end of the court with the guards. He floats deep 3-pointers toward the rafters, swishing four in a row before missing.

He can dunk, though he hasn’t done it in a game and is more than content with not participating in this show. He does more than enough for Baylor, anyway.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Game-by-game look at the NCAA Tournament]

Lecomte, now a redshirt junior, has become a difference-maker in his first season on the court after transferring from Miami. He wanted to be a full-time point guard, not the off-ball complement to Angel Rodriguez, so he left the Hurricanes in April 2015. After sitting out a year, he has become one of the best point guards in the Big 12.

The Brussels, Belgium native is the Bears’ second-leading scorer (12.4 points) and ranks eighth in the Big 12 in assists (3.9). He was always a strong shooter, and his 42 percent 3-point rate ranks seventh in the league.

Lecomte played 28 minutes a game as a freshman at Miami, scoring 7.7 points and dishing out 2.3 assists. He saw his minutes drop (22.4) as a sophomore, in Rodriguez’ first year after he sat out a transfer year of his own. Lecomte hit 3s at a 45.6 percent rate, but didn’t play a prominent role.

Baylor (25-7), which in January reached No. 1 in the polls for the first time in school history, is a 3-seed in the East region and faces 14-seed New Mexico State at 12:40 p.m. Friday.

“It’s March Madness and anything can happen,” he said. “I believe in my teammates. I believe we can win the national championship. But it starts tomorrow. We can’t overlook any team.”

It will be the first NCAA tournament game for Lecomte, 22. The Hurricanes missed the cut in his first season at UM, and reached the NIT Final in his sophomore year, with Rodriguez running the point.

UM, which lacks a true point guard and plays junior Ja’Quan Newton and freshman Bruce Brown on the ball, could use a player with his skillset. There are no hard feelings on either side.

“I’m happy,” Lecomte said.  “I was happy at Miami. It was two great years, great experience, great coach, great teammates. It’s a new experience for me and it’s been great so far.”

 

 

Improving, not NBA Draft, on the mind of Miami Hurricanes freshman Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown is focused on improving as a player, not his NBA future. (Getty Images)
Bruce Brown is focused on improving as a player, not his NBA future. (Getty Images)

[Insider’s look at Michigan State | Porter’s Final Four picks]

[Setting the table for Canes-Sparty | Miami dancing again, gets 8-seed]

[PHOTO GALLERY: Game-by-game look at the NCAA Tournament]

CORAL GABLES — So many games in the NCAA Tournament are won by talented, aggressive guards who take over. Bruce Brown has that ability.

He showed it in December (triple-double against South Carolina State). He showed it in January (30 points against No. 9 North Carolina). He showed it in February (winning 3-pointer at No. 18 Virginia, 25 points against No. 10 Duke).

He doesn’t expect his first March experience will be his last.

As one of the top freshmen in the ACC, college basketball’s premier conference, Brown’s pro potential is widely discussed. Since the NBA instituted its “one-and-done” rule in 2006, 97 freshmen have been drafted. But when asked for his thoughts on leaving early, Brown, 20, said he’s “not thinking about it right now.”

After the Hurricanes’ run is over, would he consider it more deeply?

“I don’t think I’m ready, to be honest,” he told The Post. “I feel like I can get a lot better. I feel there’s a lot I can do to prepare myself better to get to that level.”

Such as?

“Shooting, dribbling, everything,” he said.

Brown, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound combo guard, is averaging 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals while playing more than 30 minutes a night. He’s a physical scorer and athletic defender who can make shots from the outside. But he sees the holes in his game.

His loose handle can get him into trouble; he averages 2.1 turnovers, but has coughed it up four or more times in seven of 32 games. “That’s one big thing I need to work on,” he said. Ball-handling will be a major focus of his offseason training.

Last year, he worked mostly on his shooting, “because I thought my handle was OK,” he said. “My jump shot was not where it needed to be at the start of the season. Now I have confidence in it.”

Brown is one of the more athletic guards in the ACC. (Miami Herald)
Brown is one of the more athletic guards in the ACC. (Miami Herald)

That feeling was hard-won. In November, the newcomer missed nine of the first 10 shots he took from beyond the arc. Over his first 10 games, he was 5-of-24 on 3-pointers. But continued work with UM’s coaches helped him improve. In ACC games, he made them at a 40 percent clip. His percentage ranked just outside the top 10 among conference players.

What else?

“Everything,” he said, agreeing with a reporter who noted he could become a more dominant scorer. “I’ve got to get stronger. I didn’t rebound well the last couple games. That’s something I need to work on, too.”

His coaches are more than happy to help.

“It takes a level of humility to understand where you’re at, what you’re good at, what you need to improve upon, what’s your identity as a player,” UM assistant coach Chris Caputo said. “What’s unique about Bruce is there’s not a lot of guys who would put up 30 against Carolina and 25 against Duke and spend most of their time thinking about what they could be better at. There would be a lot of people trying to live off that, rather than self-examine.”

That will only help Miami (21-11), whose first-round matchup with Michigan State tips off around 9:20 p.m. Friday, achieve greater things.

In its 2018 mock draft, which was updated Tuesday, DraftExpress.com rates Brown as the No. 15 player. That’s two spots behind guard Lonnie Walker, Miami’s top incoming recruit, who is currently in high school but could leave after one season at UM. If DraftExpress’ faraway projections came true, Brown and Walker would become the highest-drafted Hurricanes since Hall of Famer Rick Barry (second overall in 1966). UM’s most recent first-rounder, Shane Larkin, went 18th in 2014.

Though Miami will lose heart-and-soul seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy, the 2017-18 Hurricanes should be even better with the development of Brown, freshman forward Dewan Huell (a former McDonald’s All-American) and several other young players, plus a Walker-led recruiting class considered UM’s best ever. Brown could be the go-to player on a team expected to make major noise.

If Brown wants to, he can test the water. Last year, the NBA instituted a rule that allows underclassmen to declare for the draft and retain their NCAA eligibility by withdrawing before the draft. They can do so in multiple seasons, and can participate in the league’s scouting combine and work out for NBA teams.

Brown, a top-30 recruit, was one of the highest-rated players ever to sign with UM. (ESPN)
Brown, a top-30 recruit, was one of the highest-rated players ever to sign with UM. (ESPN)

That doesn’t interest him now, though, not with a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma and a tough Midwest Region ahead.

“Right now we’re just focusing on defense in practice,” Brown said. “When we have fun on the court, that’s when we play our best basketball. That’s another thing we need focus on in this run.

“We all think we need to share the ball more. Our defense is great … It’s defense to offense. We get out in transition, we get turnovers and easy points in transition. … When we defend, we win.”

He’s weathered a few dramatic games so far in his brief college career, but he hadn’t been through a Selection Sunday as a Hurricane. As he waited for his team’s matchup to flash across the big-screen TV at the on-campus party, he admitted, he was jittery.

“I don’t know why,” he said. “I knew we were in the tournament, but I was nervous for some reason.”

Those nerves won’t be around for long. Brown will stay a while.